Michael Rakowitz: Be Longing

Leidschenveen-Ypenburg, The Hague

"A city where everyone feels at home is made together" - Michael Rakowitz 

Public events Be Longing:
- 6 thru 22 April 2024, presentation at Ypenburg Library
- 29 and 30 June 2024, participation dinners at the Molenvlietpark

- Meetings will be held at various locations throughout the city throughout the year where residents will get to meet Michael Rakowitz and be invited to bring something made of ceramics that they would like to donate toward the artwork.

Are you interested in joining the ceramic sessions i.e. Be Longing or would you like to know more about the artwork? Please contact: buitenkunst.molenvlietpark [at] gmail.com

Since 2018, Stroom Den Haag, commissioned by the municipality of The Hague, has been supervising a large art commission on the theme of Archaeology and Migration Flows at the Rotterdamsebaan; the new road between the Binckhorst and Ypenburg interchange. The commission is linked to the Molenvliet Park area where an archaeological site is located. An assessment committee was set up for the assignment. The latter drew up a shortlist of (internationally) renowned artists and approached them in 2021. After extensive exploration of the area, visits to the Victory Boogiewoogie Tunnel (the still under construction), Archaeology The Hague, various city districts and conversations with organizations such as the Indisch Remembrance Center, the sketch presentations took place in early March 2022. The final choice for Michael Rakowitz's proposal Be Longing fell later that year. The Rotterdamsebaan itself officially opened in February 2021. The artwork is expected to be unveiled in Molenvliet Park in late 2024.

Be Longing
For Rakowitz, each new artwork is preceded by an intensive research process in which he actively involves local and international communities in his work. During his visits to The Hague, he has spoken to many contacts within migrant communities with whom he plans to collaborate. Central to this is the collaboration with the Participatie Keuken; an initiative of Ben Lachhab based on the underlying idea that every person wants to feel seen, heard and appreciated. Eating together and sharing stories as the way to work together for a livable society. 

Be Longing departs from the idea that migrants bring home objects and recipes from their homeland in order to feel at home in the new location. Shards of plates and dishes were found during archaeological excavations near the Molenvlietpark, which archaeologists are reconstructing. These hybrid objects inspired Rakowitz's design proposal in which the diversity of backgrounds of The Hague's population forms the foundation for the artwork. He sees a similarity in The Hague's archaeological soil layers and the stratification of the city's population. 

Rakowitz sees his interventions as a way to make cultures tangible and visible, revealing new cross-connections in the city. To this end, together with the Participatie Keuken, he organizes communal dinners and meetings in which issues that live in the various migrant communities in The Hague are discussed on the basis of objects brought along and meals cooked together. In doing so, he also invites residents to donate dinnerware they have brought from their country of origin as a tangible underlay of all the stories. In the final artwork, those stories will resonate in the shards of ceramics. 

Michael Rakowitz
(1973, living in Chicago, USA), himself of Iraqi origin, recognizes the longing of migrants to return to their country of origin. Even from generations thereafter. This desire is simultaneously accompanied by the need to feel at home in a new place. The English title Be Longing refers both to feeling at home somewhere, to homesickness (for the old place) and the longing for a new home. It is this personal involvement and connection to local multicultural communities that are an essential part of Rakowitz's artistic practice. The process-based approach to artwork that welcomes and utilizes the input of his interlocutors is typical of his work. Michael Pollan's popular book The Omnivore's Dilemma (2005) which identifies food and cooking as the reason for the creation of cities, inspired Rakowitz for a project such as Enemy Kitchen (from 2003) in which a mobile truck carrying Iraqi refugees and American Iraq veterans hand out food across the US. In recent years, Rakowitz has worked to reconstruct the images stolen and destroyed by IS, leading to such works as The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (London, 2018). With Be Longing, Rakowitz follows in the footsteps of great international teachers - including Dennis Adams - who have realized works in the Netherlands.

As the municipality's permanent partner for art in the public space, Stroom is supervising the selection procedure for Be Longing, the artist and the artistic process until the unveiling. The artwork builds on the special commissioning process in the Netherlands and Europe when it comes to artworks in public space. It will be the latest addition to The Hague's international art collection, with works such as Ling Zhi Helicopters by Huang Yong Ping and Celestial Vault by James Turrell.

The artwork Be Longing is created in collaboration of Stroom Den Haag with the Participatie Keuken and the City of The Hague. 

Michael Rakowitz visiting Molenvlietpark
photo: Wineke van Muiswinkel
Presentation Ypenburg Library
photo: Henriette Guest, courtesy Stroom Den Haag
Presentation Ypenburg Library
photo: Henriette Guest, courtesy Stroom Den Haag
A gift of ceramics at the library in Ypenburg
photo: Wineke van Muiswinkel
Michael Rakowitz during lunch at the Participatie Keuken
photo: Frank Jansen
The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, Fourth Plinth, Londen, 2018
photo: Gautier DeBlonde, courtesy the Mayor of London